Politics: American Miracle Man Pulls Crowd

Islands Business International (Fiji)/February 3, 2006
By Samisoni Pareti

If the wealthy American evangelist Benny Hinn was hoping the exotic location of his mass crusade would be enough to ward off critics, the man of cloth was terribly mistaken.

Even weeks before his scheduled three-day crusade on January 20-22 on Fiji's largest outdoor sports stadium, critics had a field day on the editorial pages of the country's dailies in which the man was called all sort of names from being a fake and false prophet to a sweet talking televangelist!

For the organisers, they could only see the bad publicity as a blessing in disguise as it motivated many to turn up at the crusade to watch the American pastor perform miracles.

"Their attempt to criticise and condemn Pastor Hinn actually backfired because it only motivated many people in Fiji to see the truth for themselves," says Manasa Kolivuso, a member of the local organising committee of Hinn's visit.

But even after drawing record crowds which local media estimated at up to 26,000 per crusade, the criticisms didn't go away.

When Hinn held his last gathering on Sunday, headlines the very next day told of the disappointment of the any who were not healed by the visiting miracle man.

The Fiji Sun newspaper, for instance, reported about a local disabled association taking a busload of its members to the crusade venue, only to be turned away.

"I tried to go up to the stage where Benny Hinn was so he could lay his hands on me. But to my surprise the security guards shut the gates," Roneel Singh, who is partially blind, told the newspaper. Fiji Sun also spoke to the association's advocacy officer, Sajendra Sharma.

"I am against all preachers who come in the name of miracles and claims of having the ability to heal because all they really to do is to create false hopes and depression for people who really want to be healed," said Sharma.

What was in the minds of many critics was publicly stated in the same newspaper report by the Reverend Ame Tugawe, general-secretary of the powerful Methodist Church.

"If I had the opportunity to speak to him, I would direct him to (local) Saint Giles Hospital and the Colonial War Memorial Hospital because these are the places where most people require urgent healing," said Tugawe.

"I would also asked him to heal people suffering from HIV/AIDS because this is a disease that has no cure," he added.

It may have been a tongue in cheek remark from the Methodist leader, but actually Hinn in his second crusade to Fiji last month reportedly cured an HIV positive woman of the deadly disease. The woman had publicly declared her positive status a year or so ago.

Upon being prayed upon by Hinn that Saturday evening infront of the 26,000 or so faithfuls, the woman tearfully testified that she had been cured. Needless to say, Hinn himself urged her to verify this miracle with her doctors! The newspaper criticisms came a day after pastors of the local Baptist Church went on national radio and television to ridicule the so-called healing skills of Hinn. They released digital photos of a Fiji man walking unaided hours before the start of Hinn's first public crusade. Yet the same man, the Baptist Church said, was paraded at the crusade as someone who had been healed by the visiting televangelist after 15 years of using crutches.

Even before Hinn's leased private jet touched down at Nausori (Suva) airport, the Baptist Church had been inviting members of the public to watch a documentary on the failings of the man. Granted, local organisers of Hinn's first incursion into the islands of the Pacific did a brave job defending their guest.

Yet, the 56-year old preacher had been unable to save himself from damning criticisms of fraud and fake.

In a lengthy expose on the man in 2003, the Los Angeles Times did observe that "critiquing and mocking Hinn" had become a cottage industry in itself staffed by "self-deputised watchdogs." Such attacks on him were orchestrated by the devil, Hinn told the newspaper.

The Los Angeles Times described Hinn as the world's most successful faith healer, receiving in one year alone US$89 million in donations. He conducts about 24 crusades overseas each year, travelling in a leased Gulfstream jet.

His daily TV Christian "This is Your Day" programme is one of the most watched in almost 200 countries, translated in several languages.

Hinn lives with his wife and three children in a multi-million dollar oceanfront mansion in California. In the Los Angeles Times story, Hinn was described in every minute detail when he turned up for the interview.

"Accompanied by bodyguards, Hinn arrives in his Mercedes-Benz G500, an SUV that retails for about US$80,000," said the newspaper report.

"He is dressed casually in black, from designer sunglasses to leather jacket to shoes.

"Hinn fiddles with his cell phone, which spots a Mercedes logo."

That report spoke to then 11-year old William Vandenkolk whom Hinn claimed to have healed his blindness in one of his many crusades two years before the interview.

"Today, William is still legally blind and says his sight never improved," the story says.

Be that as it may, Hinn was reportedly moved by the crowd turnout in his Fiji crusade that he promised to return in the middle of the year. It seemed Fiji's Who's Who turned up to see the miracle man. Just a week after attempting to broker a peace deal between the government and the military, Fiji's acting president and his wife turned up for Hinn's final crusade. Fiji's prime minister who is gunning for another five-year term in this year's election attended twice. His political rivals in the Fiji Labour Party were also at the park, and if they were all hoping to go away with a miracle of their own, perhaps they ought to talk first to young William Vadenkolk or someone closer to home like Roneel Singh.

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